Best Piping Material For Cold Air Intake: Can You Use PVC?

While choosing a cold air intake for your car you always have through a couple of different options for intake piping. Which material is better and why? This is the question you might ask yourself (it’s definitely something I have asked myself).

As a general rule, the best material for Cold air intake piping is plastic, cause it’s easy to install, can be molded in the desired shape for better efficiency, and retains cold which is the most important purpose of a CAI. 

In this article, we are going to discuss cold air intake piping in detail, what are the best materials and if you can even use PVC as cold air intake pipes.

What’s The Use Of Cold Air Intake Piping?

Cold air intake on supercharger

The main purpose of cold air intake piping is to provide your engine with less restrictive cold air. Cold air is very important for engine performance. CAI can improve the engine’s efficiency and power.

The stock air intake has a lot of air restrictions and high intake temperature due to its shape and design. Replacing the stock air intake with a Cold air intake is a performance upgrade that benefits your engine. CAI makes it easier for the engine to breathe more cold air, and make slightly more power.

Cold air intake piping allows a straight path for the air to pass through the piping and goes inside the engine. This straight path allows the engine to take advantage of more incoming air.

Also Read: Do Cold Air Intakes Add Horsepower?

Things To Look For In Cold Air Intake Piping

A good Cold air intake pipe should be as straight as possible to be least restrictive and it has to be made from material that is good at keeping the air temperature cold. The main purpose of a CAI is to provide the engine with cold air. Cold air increases the engine’s performance and also increases the engine’s power.

Things you should look for in CAI piping Things you should avoid for CAI piping
Make sure that the CAI you are getting is specifically designed for your engine type and car model. CAI piping that is not made for your car model or engine type (decreases performance and intake efficiency)
The intake pipe should be as straight as possible for better flow and less restriction Too much crooked or bent pipe (could cause air restriction in intake flow)
Plastic CAI piping is better for optimal performance (retains cold and increases performance). Metal piping (gets hot by engine heat, can increase intake air temperature)

Also Read: Cold Air Intake Vs Air Filter: Usage, Power, Sound & Cost

3 Best Materials For Cold Air Intake Piping

1: Plastic 

Plastic pipe

Plastic pipe

Plastic intake piping is widely used in Cold air intake because it can deliver colder air than metal piping. Plastic intake pipes can be molded into the desired shape for better fitment and optimal performance.

2: Metal Piping – Steel or Aluminum 

Aluminum pipe

Aluminum pipe

Both steel and Aluminum are commonly used and they also come with most air intake kits. Steel or Aluminum pipings are available in different finishing and they can be either painted, powder coated, or even chromed finish. A metal intake piping is better than many stock tubing but working with steel piping requires welding to bend the intake pipe according to your engine type.

3: Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber pipe

High-end CAI kits come with carbon fiber piping that is quite expensive and usually made for specific engine types and supercar models. Like plastic piping, carbon fiber piping also retains cold but unlike plastic piping, it has more durability and strength.

Carbon fiber piping is also made with molding technology and can be molded into the desired shape for a more efficient intake air path.

Can You Use a PVC Pipe for Cold Air Intake?

PVC pipe is also an option for cold air intake piping. It doesn’t heat up as much as other materials like aluminum. That said, buying a used air intake piping could be a better approach than using PVC pipes. PVC pipe doesn’t have high heat tolerance and may breakdown during hot weather.

I would suggest you put heat wrap on the headers if you are going to install a PVC air intake pipe. Heat wrap on headers will prevent extra heat inside the engine bay and it will protect your PVC piping as well.


Is PVC Pipe Ok for Compressed Air?

PVC can be used for compressed air piping but it is not the recommended material because it can easily crack or shatter with time. PVC pipes are also incapable of holding high compressed air pressure. Unlike other materials, PVC cannot hold high-pressure compressed air because the air will make the PVC pipe shatter.

What Temperature Will PVC Crack?

The maximum temperature PVC will stand is 140F. If the temperature rises above 140F, the PVC pipe will crack. As the temperature increases, the Pvc will get softer, and as the temperature decreases Pvc will get stiffer or harder due to its material properties. The average air intake temperature is about 80°F and Pvc can handle more than that.

Ifandi L.

Ifandi L.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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